Tracking down campus hate

UMCP: President Mote must let racists know the university will find them and make them pay.

November 20, 1999

IMAGINE connecting to the Internet and opening your e-mail to find something worse than an annoying electronic ad: The anonymous message threatens injury. Or worse.

"Get ... off campus ... If you stay, you better watch your back!!!" was part of the profanity-laced message a University of Maryland, College Park newspaper editor received this year.

The editor, Rahman Culver, was the letter's target because of his race. This was one of a dozen reported hate crimes that UMCP has recorded this year. Make that a dozen too many.

Racists also have sent a letter filled with vulgar epithets, through U.S. mail, to the Student Government Association president, who is black, a Black Student Union officer, the union's office and the African-American Studies Department.

To be sure, hate on campus is nothing new. College Park has struggled for years to improve race relations. Some say the campus has made significant progress.

And hate is not exclusive to UMCP. Even historically black Florida A&M was targeted by racism when two bombs exploded at the Tallahassee campus this year. A white man has been arrested and charged.

The College Park incidents focus new attention on this old problem. Investigators from the U.S. Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney's office and campus police must ferret out the racists and make them pay. These investigators have the necessary technical talent to catch the villains; they must exhaust their skills.

Meanwhile, the administration must answer complaints that it responds too slowly -- when it does respond -- to hate incidents. University President C. D. "Dan" Mote Jr. told a rally protesting the incidents to "work together to stamp out this cancer on our community." He must lead this effort by mounting thorough investigations of every racist e-mail, letter and phone call.

Indeed, Dr. Mote can send an unmistakable message of his own: College Park will track down and banish racists and their hateful missives.

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